The Orioles began an eight game road trip Monday night in Minnesota, against the team with the worst record in the American League. The Twins were 36-52, winning just 3 of their last 10. For the birds, this four game set would perhaps provide a chance to reboot. The Orioles have faced teams with losing records in just three of their last 22 games. Against the Mariners, the birds were 2-1 in that stretch. They were 5-14 against the teams above .500.
If the Orioles were looking for a respite, though, they went to the wrong place. Minnesota pounded Orioles pitching for 19 runs and 20 hits in a 19-7 embarrassment. The O’s best shot at doing anything in this game came in the first inning.
Nick Markakis led off with a hit, and JJ Hardy followed it up with a walk. Adam Jones the hit a liner toward the right field line, but was of extra bases and at least one RBI by Ben Revere’s terrific diving catch to his glove-side left. The next batter, Matt Wieters , bounced into a double play, and the threat—for both the inning, and the game—was over.
The Twins put together a rally in the first inning that would kill any chance the Orioles had to grab a win. Two of the Orioles biggest issues this season—young, ineffective starting pitching, and terrible defense—would both play a major role.
With one out, starter Chris Tillman (L, 1-1) gave up a double to Revere, and All-Star catcher Joe Mauer singled him home, making it 1-0. Tillman fanned Josh Willingham, gave up a double to Justin Morneau, and walked Trevor Plouffe, loading the bases with two outs. Early on, this was the game’s key moment: would the young starter be able to keep his composure and get the out he needed, sending his team back to the dugout, down just 1-0? The answer should have been “yes”. But, this is the 2012 Orioles, and, well, it’s complicated.
Ryan Doumit battled Tillman for an eight-pitch at bat, and tapped pitch number eight toward first baseman Mark Reynolds. Reynolds went after the ball like he was a blue crab on the banks of the bay, creeping towards it almost sideways. He looked more like he was playing Whack-A-Mole than first base, as the ball bounced off his glove and into shallow right for the error. Two runs scored on that play. Four more would come in in the inning, on a single, double and walk. Tillman never even survived the first, handing the ball to Buck Showalter with 2 out, and 7 in.
Tillman’s performance, pre-error, was plenty of kindling. The error turned the thing into a blaze. And the bullpen sent it to three alarms. Miguel Socolovich was finally able to get the Orioles out of the first, but he gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks in 2.1 innings. Darren O’Day allowed 3 runs on 4 hits in one inning of work. And Jim Johnson, called on to mop up for one inning in a 14-5 game, was roughed-up, too. Johnson gave up 5 runs on 4 hits and 1 hit batsman, all in just one-third of an inning. Johnson threw 25 pitches, only 12 of which were strikes.
The Orioles will send Zach Britton to the mound for the first time in 2012 Tuesday, against Samuel Deduno (0-0, 5.06), making just his second start for the Twins. Game time is 8:10.
- Trying to atone for the huge first inning error, Reynolds went 3-4 with 2 runs scored, a homer and 4 RBIs. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis each added 3 hits, and Endy Chavez homered.
- The Orioles will have to find a way to settle down defensively, or pay these kinds of consequences. The offense has been struggling for a while now. The pitching is getting younger as the herd keeps thinning. One of the great surprises early on was how little the poor defense actually hurt this team. That bird (sorry…) always comes home to roost.
- Matt Wieters had a bad day at the plate, stranding 6 in a 1-4 night. Steve Pearce was 0-4. And the struggles of JJ Hardy (0-3 with his average now down to .216) and Chris Davis (0-4, .262) continue as well.
- The Twins scored in every inning but the fifth and seventh. 19 runs is a new Twins record at Target Field.